A Calgary MLA who was recently ousted from the NDP caucus claims that Alberta New Democrats were told not to be photographed with federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh or to go public if they knew about opposition politicians who had behaved inappropriately towards women.
Robyn Luff went public on Monday with complaints about bullying within the party, saying there is a “culture of fear and intimidation.” By Monday night, Luff was out of the party. In a statement — which misspelled Luff’s first name as “Robin,” not “Robyn” — the party said her fellow caucus members had “lost confidence in her ability to participate as a productive and trustworthy member of the government caucus.”
On Tuesday, the former Alberta NDP backbencher fired back with a lengthy statement posted to Facebook that detailed her concerns about the way Premier Rachel Notley is running the party and government.
“For some time now, I have been having increased anxiety and stress responses when I know I have to have meetings where my concerns will be belittled,” she said.
She added that NDP MLAs are often told what to do and say.
“For instance we were told that if we had any information on opposition members who had behaved inappropriately towards women that it was best not to go public with it because our party wasn’t completely without fault on the matter,” she wrote. “When Jagmeet Singh was in town we got a text message saying not to be photographed with him.”
Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman told reporters Tuesday that sexual harassment and bullying are “never OK” and she was unaware of any directive about party members bringing up allegations about inappropriate behaviour, or about any current allegations.
“I want to be very clear that we in no way tolerate sexual harassment, assault, bullying, harassment, sexual improprieties in any way,” Hoffman said. “Of course, rumours are rumours, but certainly it is not our intention to ever stifle — we stand with survivors.”
Jason Kenney, the United Conservative Party leader, said he was unaware of any allegations of inappropriate behaviour. “With respect to our own MLAs, no, and I’m not aware of any with respect to MLAs in other parties either,” Kenney said.
As for the accusation that the party told members not to be photographed with Singh, Hoffman said the federal NDP leader “has not been a friend to Albertans.”
“I would be surprised if any of our MLAs wanted to take a picture with Jagmeet Singh, but I wouldn’t be shocked if people were reminded of his history on that and discouraged from doing so,” she said. “I certainly have no interest in standing for a photo with somebody who has a proven track record of attacking our oilsands.”
In her statement, Luff said that she wasn’t the only NDP MLA who felt unable to represent their constituents under Notley’s leadership.
“I have had staff members, party members, and caucus members tell me, all confidentially, that they have felt this too, but are too scared to come forward,” she said.
Luff also wrote that she had accused Notley to her face of “running the government no differently than Stephen Harper.” Asked in Question Period about the controversy, Notley said the NDP has a good team.
“I’m obviously very disappointed with the decision that was taken by the member from Calgary-East, but let me also just say how proud I am of the team that sits with me here on this side of the house,” Notley said. “They are doing extraordinary jobs.”
Graham Sucha, another NDP backbencher, told reporters that the allegations are “unfounded” and the decision to remove Luff from caucus was unanimous.
“We didn’t like the path that she took to try to address (her concerns),” Sucha said. “I have never seen bullying on my end and many of our members recognized and said that they never saw it on their end either.”
Calgary MLA Karen McPherson left the government caucus last October and backed up Luff’s assertions about information control, writing on Twitter: “I left last year and what Robyn said is accurate. Robyn’s methods aren’t the issue.”
The Post reached out to Luff for an interview, and was told she is “doing her best to respond to all interview requests in a timely fashion but there are a lot of them.”
Luff said she will not join another party and will no longer be sitting in the legislature. She had previously announced that she would not be running in the provincial election, which will be held in Spring 2019.
“My children have made it abundantly clear that they would prefer to have more of my attention,” she said. “And I intend to honour that.”